Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

Former Uyghur Inmates Tell of Torture and Rape in China’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps

October 16, 2018

Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are being tortured, raped, and killed in secretive “political re-education” camps, former detainees have told The Epoch Times.

“Upwards of one million” of the predominantly Uyghur prisoners continue to be detained in what were, until Oct. 9, extrajudicial internment camps in western China, according to figures quoted by the the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and the United Nations.

Image result for Xinjiang, China, photos

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials say the mass detentions among the Uyghur population, the majority of whom practice Islam, are part of measures to crack down on terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the country. The CCP has used the excuse of potential “extremist threats” to justify its strict surveillance and crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

First-hand accounts described to The Epoch Times reveal attempts by authorities to strip Uyghur detainees of their culture and language, forcing them to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the CCP and its leader.

Epoch Times
October 15, 2018 Updated: October 16, 2018
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If detainees fail to follow orders, they may be subject to up to five forms of torture as punishment, a Uyghur and former inmate explained in an interview from Istanbul, Turkey.

Xinjiang-born Omir Bekli, 42, a Kazakhstan national since 2006, was detained for six months in March last year after he was forcibly taken from his parents’ home in Shanshan—180 miles east of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang—his head covered in a black sack before being whisked away.

He was visiting Urumqi at the time to attend an international meeting about tourism.

Bekli was detained for seven months in a police cell and then sent to a reeducation camp in Karamay for 20 days where he was tortured, with one of the reasons being his refusal to sing songs which praise the CCP and its leader Xi Jinping.

“The torturing methods were very inhumane and extremely unbearable,” Bekli told The Epoch Times.

Former detainee Uyghur Omir Bekli
Uyghur Omir Bekli, 42, a former detainee in Xinjiang, China. (Courtesy of Omir Bekli)

Uyghurs are “chained up like animals,” deprived of food and sleep, and beaten until their bodies are “swollen and pouring blood.”

“They make you fear and make you weak, physically and mentally, so that they can make you obey them,” Bekli explained.

Another Uyghur detainee—a Kazakhstan national aged 54 who was released in September from a camp in Urumqi after being detained for 15 months—told The Epoch Times that young Uyghur women are being raped daily by CCP officials in the camps and could be killed if they resist. The 54-year-old spoke on condition of anonymity from Istanbul due to fears for her safety.

“Young girls are taken out and raped all night long. If you keep resisting, they will inject you with something and kill you,” she said.

She has personally witnessed two Uyghur females being killed by injection, she told The Epoch Times.

“There are usually 40 to 50 people in one small room, but five to 10 are regularly taken out and they just disappear—they never come back. People are being killed in tens all the time.”

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Facebook must not wait to relearn lesson from Myanmar with each new market

October 16, 2018

In Myanmar, the military led a widespread, covert disinformation campaign on Facebook to fuel ethnic tension and genocide. For tech companies, this should be a clear warning that a proactive, rather than a reactive approach, is necessary to combat misuse of services.

A New York Times investigation revealed how Myanmar’s military can and did use social media, not against hostile foreign countries, but against their own people. These findings, after a U.N. report about the use of Facebook to spread hate leading to genocide in Myanmar, raised hard questions for the social media giant. Now, it turns out that several of the accounts were run by military officials under false names.

Although Facebook has discovered disinformation campaigns from countries like Russia and Iran targeted and stirring up chaos in other countries, in Myanmar, those same tactics were used to fuel domestic ethnic violence.

By Erin Dunne

Image result for Aung Shine Oo, photos, Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi left walks with senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Credit Aung Shine Oo / AP

To stir up hate, military officials created Facebook accounts posing as regular users. From these accounts, which had millions of followers, they spread false stories including one about the rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man and others that pitting Islam against Buddhism. The operation also included spreading rumors and fake satire about the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

That hate, spread deliberately by government officials turned into real acts of violence: murders, rapes, and the destruction of entire communities leaving a trail of dead and creating a refugee crisis as Myanmar’s Rohingya minority fled.

To do so was no simple task, and the military established secret bases where operatives using faking accounts and names targeted posts critical of the military, learned about trends in social media, and posted incendiary comments.

Facebook had previously deactivated the accounts of top military leaders, the covert operations that spurred the violence remained beneath the company’s radar. Now, those accounts have been deleted as well, but as many have pointed out, the actions from the company were too late.

On Monday, the company posted a statement explaining:

“Today, we removed 13 Pages and 10 accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook in Myanmar. As part of our ongoing investigations into this type of behavior in Myanmar we discovered that these seemingly independent entertainment, beauty and informational Pages were linked to the Myanmar military. This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook under our misrepresentation policy because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing. After a U.N. report implicated Facebook in the genocide earlier this year, the company acknowledged that it had been slow to act.”

That acknowledgment, however, leaves plenty of questions for just what social media platforms should do when faced with such a situation.

One option would be to not operate in countries like Myanmar. This reasoning was behind Google’s initial move to pull out of China — which it now seems to be reconsidering with the development of a censored search engine to meet Chinese Communist Party requirements.

Facebook, however, has not opted to cut service in Myanmar, but instead decided to employ more content reviewers, block specific accounts, and continue to actively monitor social media activity. It is also hiring a product policy director for human rights.

Although imperfect, Facebook is right to keep services available while also ramping up efforts to monitor content. After all, without Facebook, other companies would emerge to meet demand and those platforms, rather than being manipulated, might well be run by the military.

Facebook and other companies must not wait to relearn the lessons from Myanmar with each new market it enters and grows to dominate, but instead have a well-thought-out plan from the beginning to meet the specific challenges or the political landscape.

See also:

Fuelling Rohingya genocide: Myanmar military behind Facebook campaign

Australian PM faces backlash over surprise shift in Israel policy

October 16, 2018

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting its embassy there.

Image result for Scott Morrison, photos

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Such a move, which would follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December to do just that, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia’s Asian neighbors.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and Australia are due to sign a trade deal this year.

Indonesia’s trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, denied Australian media reports on Tuesday that Jakarta was considering putting the pact on hold over the possibility of Canberra changing its stance on Israel.

Morrison’s openness to recognizing Jerusalem and moving Australia’s embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney where his center-right coalition faces the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.

The by-election is in the Sydney harbourside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison’s Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.

Census figures show 12.5 percent of people in Wentworth are Jewish, a significantly larger proportion than the rest of the country. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday is Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.

Morrison will have to negotiate with independent lawmakers in order to continue governing in minority if the coalition loses Saturday’s by-election.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described Morrison’s apparent change of heart as “unprincipled and craven” and he faced a torrid question time in parliament.

“The orthodoxy that’s driven this debate which says issues like considering the question of the capital are taboo. I think we have to challenge that,” Morrison said earlier in Canberra.

“No decision has been made regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy … but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion,” Morrison said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.

Australia refused to follow Trump’s decision in December, which enraged Palestinians and upset the Arab world and Western allies, and has so far kept its mission in Tel Aviv.

The apparent change of policy was welcomed by Israel but swiftly criticized by Palestinian representatives.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Morrison had telephoned to explain his shift, said on Twitter he was “very thankful” Morrison was considering the move.

Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Peace talks between the parties broke down in 2014.

In a statement, Palestine’s embassy in Australia called Morrison’s announcement “deeply disturbing”. It said short-term political gain “would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries”.

The U.S. Embassy became the only foreign embassy in Jerusalem in May, but Netanyahu has attempted to persuade others to follow suit.

University of Sydney political analyst Rod Tiffen said the shifting position was being driven by local politics.

“It’s a big change, it is out of step with everyone, except America,” said Tiffen.

“But three days out from the Wentworth by-election, it’s pretty blatant … to the extent that there is a Jewish vote there, it probably helps.”

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in JERUSALEM; Editing by Paul Tait


China and the Case of the Interpol Chief

October 11, 2018
China emphasizes the need for “absolute loyalty” and for “resolute support” for Xi Jinping.

Image result for xi jinping, photos

Beijing apparently has detained Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol and a former top Chinese security official. What are the charges?

By The Editorial Board

The New York Times

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Credit Rose Wong

China has yet to give any details of the corruption charges against Meng Hongwei, the president of Interpol, who disappeared on a visit home and was later said to have been arrested. Whatever the charges are, they are almost certainly not the real reason for his fate. In China, the law is what the Communist Party says it is — more precisely, what President Xi Jinping says it is. And when an official of Mr. Meng’s global stature is nabbed, it’s a political decision — even if, coincidentally, he was corrupt, as is often the case in China.

Mr. Meng understood the rules of that game. He had been a vice minister of public security in a police state and had played a role in many operations, including Operation Fox Hunt, which tried to bring Chinese officials and businesspeople suspected of corruption back from abroad. His former boss, Zhou Yongkang, was imprisoned for life on corruption charges in 2015. Mr. Meng’s last WhatsApp message to his wife was an emoji of a knife, which she understood to mean he was in danger.

Interpol has asked Beijing for an explanation for Mr. Meng’s detention but has taken no further action. The agency issued a statement on Sunday that it had accepted his resignation as president “with immediate effect” and named a replacement.

Whatever else he was, Mr. Meng was the president of Interpol, a venerable international organization based in France that facilitates cooperation among police forces from its 192 member countries. The position of president is largely ceremonial — a secretary general, currently Jürgen Stock of Germany, runs day-to-day operations. But the selection of a Chinese official for the post was a major feather in China’s cap, proudly hailed by Mr. Xi a year ago as evidence that China “abided by international rules.

The crude arrest of Mr. Meng proclaims the opposite. China’s behavior puts it more closely in a league with Russia, another nation whose authoritarian leader is convinced that his country is due global respect and deference by virtue of its wealth and might, and not its actions. It’s a perception seemingly shared by President Trump in his fondness for strong, unaccountable leaders and his America First approach to foreign policy.

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Dolkun Isa

Tellingly, both China and Russia have brazenly tried to use Interpol to pursue political foes. China put out a “red notice,” in effect a wanted alert, for Dolkun Isa, a self-exiled activist for the rights of China’s beleaguered Uighur minority. Russia tried to use Interpol to catch Bill Browder, a hedge-fund manager turned anti-Vladimir Putin campaigner, among other political gadflies. In these cases, Interpol has properly refused to cooperate.

Uighur looks at military police in Xinjiang

It is possible that Mr. Meng’s failure to pursue the Isa warrant fed Mr. Xi’s anger. According to The Economist, a Ministry of Public Security statement condemning Mr. Meng’s alleged wrongdoings also stressed the need for “absolute loyalty” and for “resolute support” for the country’s leader.

What Mr. Meng did to join the lengthening list of officials purged by Mr. Xi may never be fully known outside the Communist hierarchy. What is known, and deeply troubling, is how brazenly China is prepared to wage its internal power struggles without any regard for procedures, appearances or international norms.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion).

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: China And the Case Of the Interpol Chief.

China gives legal basis for ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang — “Psychological treatment and behaviour correction.” — “Systematic repression.”

October 10, 2018

Chinese officials had earlier denied existence of arbitrary detention centres and enforced political re-education

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 12:04am

China’s far-western Xinjiang region has revised its legislation to allow local governments to “educate and transform” people influenced by extremism at “vocational training centres” – a term used by the government to describe a network of internment facilities known as “re-education camps”.

The change to the law, which took effect on Tuesday, comes amid an international outcry about the secretive camps in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

But observers said writing the facilities into law did not address global criticism of China’s systematic detention and enforced political education of up to 1 million ethnic Uygurs and other Muslims in the area.

Chinese officials had earlier denied the existence of such arbitrary detention and enforced political re-education bases, but said some citizens had been sent to vocational centres for minor criminal misdemeanours.

The revision, issued by the regional legislature, recognises the use of such centres as part of the government’s efforts to eliminate “religious extremism”, which in recent years have also included a massive security crackdown in Xinjinag and sweeping restrictions on Islamic practices.

“Governments at the county level and above can set up education and transformation organisations and supervising departments such as vocational training centres, to educate and transform people who have been influenced by extremism,” says a new clause in the “Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Regulation on Anti-Extremism”.

Apart from teaching vocational skills, the centres are required to provide education on spoken and written Chinese, and aspects of the law and other regulations.

They must also organise “ideological education to eliminate extremism”, carry out psychological treatment and behaviour correction, to “help trainees to transform their thoughts and return to society and their families”.

A November 2017 photo of the entrance to a jail that locals say is used to hold those undergoing political indoctrination programs in Korla in western China’s Xinjiang region. Photo: AP

Dolkun Isa, executive chairman of the Munich-based World Uygur Congress, said Chinese authorities had been implementing the measures detailed in the revision without any legal justification for over a year.

Rolling out the law “is only a formality trying to legalise the crackdown against Muslims in Xinjiang,” he said.

The old version of the law was passed in March 2017. It bans a wide range of acts deemed manifestations of extremism, including wearing veils or having “abnormal” beards, refusing to watch television or listen to radio, and preventing children from receiving national education.

The inclusion of the camps in local legislation comes as Beijing is under growing pressure from the United States and the European Union for its ruthless crackdown in Xinjiang, after a United Nations panel confronted Chinese officials in August over reports of extralegal mass detentions of Muslim minorities.

James Leibold, an expert in China’s ethnic policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, said the global criticism of the use of the detention centres had led to the Communist Party “scrambling to justify them legally and politically”.

“[The] original 2017 deradicalisation regulation was vague and imprecise on its provision for ‘education and transformation’,” he said. “Thus this represents a retrospective fix and attempt to justify ‘legally’ the mass detention of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and elsewhere, for the purpose of political and cultural remoulding with due process.”

This is just another case of [Beijing] attempting to mask the violation of human rights behind the veneer of the rule of law

That view is echoed by Li Lifan, a central Asian expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

“I think it … targets foreign criticism of how Xinjiang re-educates extremists and their family members,” he said, adding that the regulation provided legal support for the authorities’ efforts to “maintain social stability and national security”.

However, rights advocates said writing the internment camps into law did not give it legitimacy.

“International human rights law is clear, no matter how much China tries to ‘legalise’ the impermissible,” said Michael Caster, a human rights advocate with Safeguard Defenders who studies China’s legal system.

“This is just another case of [Beijing] attempting to mask the violation of human rights behind the veneer of the rule of law. What is taking place in Xinjiang is at least a gross violation of human rights if not a crime against humanity.”

Beijing blames Islamic extremists and separatists for the unrest between Uygurs and the ethnic Han majority that has led to the deaths of hundreds of people over the past decade. Human rights groups say the conflict is caused by the government’s repression of religious freedoms and unfair ethnic policies.

Kristin Shi-Kupfer, director of research on public policy and society at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, said that China had reasons to take legal and rational measures to combat extremist attacks but that the current measures “clearly blur the boundary between the realm of religion, culture and crime”.

“The ongoing, systematic repression of mostly Uygurs in Xinjiang is likely to create more discrimination and alienation between ethnic groups in Xinjiang, especially Han and Uygurs, and potentially radicalise those who are not already silenced out of fear and desperation,” she said.


  (Mainland China is a “source of conflict” — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says.)


Chinese police officer strikes a pose (Getty Images/AFP)

With her symmetric face, her dark uniform and her mirrored sunglasses, this young policewoman looks like an agent from the sci-fi franchise “The Matrix.”  She can see things that others cannot. Her glasses are equipped with a face scanner that can search and identify faces in the crowds at a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The glasses are linked to a giant database which enables people to be identified within seconds.

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance spotlights rising repression — Plus China’s snatching on Interpol boss Meng Hongwei

October 10, 2018

Image result for Jamal Khashoggi, photos

By Roula Khalaf

I spent much of last Saturday evening scrolling through my Twitter feed, my anxiety mounting as two events unfolded.

The first was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice and the corrosion of another American institution; the second was the gruesome speculation over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi commentator who had visited his country’s consulate in Istanbul earlier in the week, and then vanished.

There was, of course, no relation between these two events, except perhaps that they were both symbols of political regression in the Trumpian age. The fraying of US democracy has been contagious. It has emboldened some of America’s undemocratic allies to act against their own critics with even greater impunity.

Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance was particularly painful because only a few days earlier, I had received an email suggesting we meet for lunch, as we sometimes did during his visits to London.

I was otherwise engaged but promised to see him the next time he visits the UK. If only I had known it may have been the last opportunity.

All we know for certain is that Mr Khashoggi went missing after entering the consulate last Tuesday to obtain personal documents.

Over the weekend, Turkish officials said he had been killed inside but provided no evidence; reports of torture, mutilation and a death squad trickled out, again without offering evidence. The Saudi authorities have denied the allegation. Their supporters are developing a narrative on social media that claims, unconvincingly, that Turkey and Qatar kidnapped him.

Perhaps Mr Khashoggi will re-emerge alive.

Possibly he is dead.

What is clear is that his vanishing debunks the overhyped myth of a new Saudi Arabia that deserves plaudits from its western allies.

The Saudi regime is adopting the same outdated playbook of old Middle Eastern autocrats, locking up activists, rounding up (and in some cases roughing up) businessmen and forcing them to give up their assets. Since 2015, three members of the royal family have reportedly been abducted and returned to the kingdom.

The “disappeared” are a lurid chapter in modern Middle Eastern history.

Every civil war produced families searching for relatives decades after they vanished. Meanwhile, in pursuing dissidents, the region’s dictators, most notoriously Libya’s late Muammer Gaddafi, were rarely deterred by borders as they snatched exiled opponents.

Mr Khashoggi was not a politician. He was an astute observer of Middle Eastern politics and a contributor to the Washington Post, with an unrivalled understanding of Saudi Arabia and the dynamics within the royal family. I first came across his writing some two decades ago, when he reported for the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper, and had a keen interest in Islamist groups in Algeria. While once I might have seen him as sympathetic to Islamists, he has been firmly in the camp of Saudi liberals who have argued for wider social freedoms.

I have watched Mr Khashoggi manage a complex relationship with the Saudi regime. He was co-opted at times and punished at others, allowed to start a progressive newspaper and then fired, invited to advise royals and then banished.His break with Saudi Arabia came in the new era of Mohammed bin Salman.

Other countries have fawned over long-overdue economic and social changes introduced by the young crown prince and de facto ruler.

Mr Khashoggi acknowledged them but also worried about widening repression. When the regime insisted that commentators join in attacks against Qatar after Saudi Arabia and its allies blockaded the emirate in 2017, Mr Khashoggi chose to live in the US rather than comply. His writing depicted the reality of Saudi Arabia, where a long-existing small margin of freedom of expression has been eliminated. “Replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer,” he wrote.

As the Trump administration and Silicon Valley chief executives applauded Prince Mohammed and public relations companies promoted the new Saudi Arabia, Mr Khashoggi stood out as a rare voice of dissent.

If he has been silenced, it is because his voice was more powerful than even he had realised.


Repression and disappearances are also a problem in China.

  (Mainland China is a “source of conflict” — Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says.)

China launches anti-halal campaign in Xinjiang

October 10, 2018

The capital of China’s Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, has launched a campaign against halal products to stop Islam penetrating secular life and fuelling “extremism”.

Urumqi, the de facto capital of Xinjiang, may seem like a dystopian city due to the frequent presence of police. However, the hospitality of its people quickly debunks the myth. Acting as a transit point on the Silk Road, the best way to explore Urumqi is by visiting the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar. Image credit: Dan Lundberg

In a meeting on Monday, the Communist Party leaders of Urumqi led cadres to swear an oath to “fight a decisive battle against ‘pan-halalization’,” according to a notice posed on the city’s official WeChat account.

Everyday halal products, like food and toothpaste, must be produced according to Islamic law.

China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Beijing has denied it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.

The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” was fuelling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

As part of the anti-halal campaign, Ilshat Osman, Urumqi’s ethnically Uighur head prosecutor, penned an essay entitled: “Friend, you do not need to find a halal restaurant specially for me”.

According to the WeChat post government employees should not have any diet problems and work canteens would be changed so that officials could try all kinds of cuisine.

The Urumqi Communist Party leaders also said they would require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism, and not religion, and to speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public.

Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.

The Communist Party in August issued a revised set of regulations governing its members behavior, threatening punishments or expulsion for anyone who clung to religious beliefs.


Reporting by David Stanway and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry


China’s Urumqi takes aim at ‘extremist’ religious practices

October 10, 2018

Urumqi, capital of the largely Muslim Chinese region of Xinjiang, will crack down on activities that blur the boundary between religion and secular life and encourage “extremism,” the local government said.

During a meeting on Monday, local Communist leaders said they would also require government officials and party members to firmly believe in Marxism-Leninism and speak standard Mandarin Chinese in public, according to a notice posted on the official Wechat account of the Urumqi procuratorate.

China has been subject to heavy criticism from rights groups and foreign governments amid reports of a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.

A Uighur man looks on as a truck carrying paramilitary policemen travel along a street during an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. (REUTERS/File Photo)

But Beijing has denied accusations that it is systematically violating the rights of Xinjiang’s Muslims, saying it is only cracking down on extremism and “splittism” in the region.

Urumqi is currently taking action against the so-called “pan-Halal tendency,” a name given to the demands by Muslims that products such as milk or toothpaste comply with Islamic rituals.

Chinese citizens with poor 'social credit rating' to be barred from public transport

The official Global Times said on Wednesday that the “demand that things be halal which cannot really be halal” were fueling hostility toward religion and allowing Islam to penetrate secular life.

Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practice any religion, but they have been subject to increasing levels of surveillance as the government tries to bring religious worship under stricter state control.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
Armed police keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. Government figures gathered by China Human Rights Defenders, a US-based non-profit, show that 21 percent of all arrests in China last year were made in Xinjiang, though only 1.5 percent of the country’s population lives there.

Beijing has repeatedly cracked down on unauthorized religious activity, and last month issued new draft guidelines to crack down on the illegal online dissemination of religious information.


Chinese police officer strikes a pose (Getty Images/AFP)

With her symmetric face, her dark uniform and her mirrored sunglasses, this young policewoman looks like an agent from the sci-fi franchise “The Matrix.”  She can see things that others cannot. Her glasses are equipped with a face scanner that can search and identify faces in the crowds at a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The glasses are linked to a giant database which enables people to be identified within seconds.

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

Omir Bekali talks about the psychological stress he endure in a Chinese internment camp during an interview in Almaty, Kazakhstan. — AP

As US turns up heat on China, trade war moves beyond tariffs to new battlefronts

October 6, 2018

A lull in the trade dispute amid heightening anti-China rhetoric suggests a shift in strategy, as the Trump administration weighs economic and military sanctions

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2018, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 2:31pm
 Illustration: Craig Stephens

On September 17, US President Donald Trump vowed to tax every single import coming from China if it retaliated against his tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods.

Beijing struck back, as expected, with tariffs on US$60 billion worth of American imports, yet there has been no sign that Trump is preparing to make good on his threat, despite a passing remark on Monday that “we could go US$267 billion more”.

The lull in what has otherwise been an incendiary and fast-moving trade war suggests a directional shift in US strategy, analysts said, as the administration weighs other non-tariff options that would avoid domestic resistance ahead of pivotal midterm elections.

These include military action, including sanctions on the Chinese military and an increase in naval exercises around China’s territorial waters; economic sanctions to counter religious suppression; and a rise in anti-China rhetoric, including accusations of Chinese interference in US elections.

Speaking on Thursday about countering what he called China’s “whole-of-government approach” to influencing US affairs, US Vice-President Mike Pence said the United States would “continue to stand strong for our security and our economy”, but did not offer any indication that the administration was preparing to move on tariffs on all Chinese imports.

Voter sentiment ahead of the November 6 midterm elections could be a crucial reason tariffs aren’t being increased further, observers said.

“There’s no question that domestic politics has to be very, very top of mind for the administration in the run-up to the midterm elections,” said Josh Green, co-founder and CEO of Panjiva, a company that provides data on global trade.

Expanding tariffs to cover all Chinese imports could mean price increases for consumer goods including cellphones, apparel and toys, which so far have largely been spared the heavy hand of duties. “It’s not a coincidence that the early tariffs were specifically not product categories where consumers were likely to feel the pain,” Green said.

The unprecedented act of imposing tariffs on all Chinese imports “could weigh on the minds of some trade negotiators”, said Orit Frenkel, who was director for trade in hi-tech products at the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in the 1980s.

Frenkel, who now runs the global consulting firm Frenkel Strategies, did note that Trump’s successful negotiation of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement may embolden his faith in the power of tariffs.

“[Trump has] said point blank that tariffs are great, tariffs are successful, tariffs have been useful in reaching an agreement,” she said, referring to his claim that the prospect of tariffs had pressured Canada into accepting the deal.

But so far that has not been the case with Beijing, which has shown no sign of bending to Washington’s will during any of the multiple trade war escalations since tariffs began in early July.

US Vice-President Mike Pence speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg

Allen Carlson, an associate professor of government at Cornell University, said this could be especially frustrating for Trump, “who seems to expect instant reaction and gratification for his actions”. The absence of any radical shift in Beijing’s position in the face of previous rounds of tariffs, he said, would be “particularly grating and emerging as a driver for exploring other policy”.

Messages to the White House, State Department and USTR requesting comment on trade strategy went unanswered.

Speaking on Thursday at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, Pence vowed that the US would push back against Chinese aggression of all types, ing that Beijing was using political, economic, military and propaganda tools “in more proactive ways than ever before to exert influence and interfere in the domestic policy and politics of our country.”

“But our message to China’s rulers is this: This president will not back down – and the American people will not be swayed,” Pence said. “We will continue to stand strong for our security and our economy, even as we hope for improved relations with Beijing.”

Washington has shown a recent willingness to go beyond tariffs in favour of other pressure tactics, including the imposition in late September of sanctions on China’s military after a state contractor bought arms from a Russian supplier.

It marked the first time the US had sanctioned any country for doing business with individuals on its blacklist of Russian defence entities, and China quickly retaliated, revoking permission for a US Navy ship’s port call in Hong Kong.

The sanctions were “step one” in the Trump administration’s broader, non-tariff approach to squeezing Beijing, said Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The Chinese did not see that coming,” said Scissors, who has offered counsel to officials on both sides of the trade dispute. The measures had no economic significance, he said, “but the Chinese found that a major widening of the conflict, and we could get another one like that”.

Beijing has shown no signs of bending to Washington’s will during any of the multiple trade war escalations. Photo: AP

Another such escalation could result if the US goes through with a series of sea- and air-based naval exercises in international waters near the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in November. Citing several US defence officials, CNN reported on Wednesday that the plans were still under consideration, but that they had developed to the stage that they had been given an operational code name.

The defence officials acknowledged that the exercises would touch a nerve in Beijing, which protests perfunctorily whenever there is a perceived infringement of its territory.

“The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said on Thursday. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”

The increase in military tension was punctuated recently when US Defence Secretary James Mattis pulled out of a high-profile meeting with Chinese counterparts in Beijing. The move was initially reported to have been prompted by China, but later confirmed by officials from both governments to have been a US decision.

Front and centre in Pence’s speech on Thursday was the commitment to protect the US from Chinese “meddling in America’s democracy”.

“Worst of all,” he said, “China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections.”

It was a renewal of accusations made by Trump last week, when he said Beijing was targeting US voters when the Communist Party-run China Daily bought an advertising supplement in the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in the agricultural state of Iowa, to highlight the impact of tariffs on soybean farmers.

But US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, speaking at a cybersecurity event hosted by The Washington Post, dampened those claims on Tuesday when she said there was no evidence that China was seeking to undermine the electoral process.

“We currently have no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure,” Nielsen said, drawing a distinction between an attack on voting systems and broader influence strategies aimed at swaying voters.

She categorised China’s current strategy as the latter, calling it “a more holistic approach to influence the American public in favour of China”.

The Chinese foreign ministry has repeatedly rejected allegations of election interference.

In response to Pence’s speech, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying characterised the vice-president’s remarks as smears of China. “It is purely groundless speculation, confusing fact with fiction and drawn from thin air,” she said on Friday. “China rejects this resolutely.”

There are also signs that the US is considering sanctions against China on humanitarian grounds, amid evidence that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the country’s far west are being held and subjected to enforced political re-education.

On Thursday, Pence became the highest-ranking US official to publicly condemn the mass internment of Uygurs and other largely Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region, a sign that a policy decision could be near.

During recent US congressional hearings, witnesses from academia and human rights advocacy appealed to lawmakers to take action against both Chinese officials involved in the crackdown on ethnic Uygurs and US companies found to be supplying China with surveillance and other security technology that may be in use in Xinjiang.

The US Commerce Department, in collaboration with the State Department, could announce changes to export policy in the coming weeks, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Senator Marco Rubio in a letter obtained by Reuters.

Under consideration are measures tightening restrictions on certain Chinese entities’ ability to procure US technology, as well as updates to the US list of technologies deemed to have applications that could endanger human rights.

Sanctions to punish religious repression would likely garner bipartisan support in Congress, Scissors said. Such action “would be very popular with parts of the Republican Party, and would be hard for parts of the Democratic Party to object to”, he said. “It’s an interesting political move, whatever the substance.”

China’s crackdown on the Uygurs and purchase of the newspaper advertorials “played into the hand” of those in the Trump administration who want to push back against Beijing, Scissors said.

“You’re soft on people who are religious oppressors? You’re soft on people who have tried to intervene on US domestic politics?”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in Beijing in November. Photo: AP

Yet as the dispute with China spreads beyond just trade, some observers said the American moves were not necessarily evidence of a clear strategy.

“A shift implies that there is a coherent policy in the first place, and this seems to be to a fallacy,” said Carlson, the Cornell professor.

“It is far from clear to me that the Trump administration has such an approach to China, or the rest of the world,” he said.

“On the contrary, policy in this White House seems to be largely driven by the whims of the president, while those around him struggle to make sense of just which way the wind is blowing out of the Oval Office on any given day.”



Pence accuses China of ‘malign’ campaign to undermine U.S., Trump administration

October 5, 2018

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence intensified Washington’s pressure campaign against Beijing on Thursday by accusing China of “malign” efforts to undermine President Donald Trump ahead of next month’s congressional elections and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

In what was billed as a major policy address, Pence sought to build on Trump’s speech at the United Nations last week in which he accused China of trying to interfere in the vote that will determine whether his Republican Party will keep control of Congress.

Neither Trump nor Pence provided hard evidence of meddling by China, which last week rejected the president’s allegation.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Hudson Institute, October 4, 2018.

Pence’s speech at Washington’s Hudson Institute marked a sharpened U.S. approach toward China going beyond the bitter trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. It highlighted disputes such as cyber attacks, Taiwan, freedom of the seas and human rights.

Pence said China was waging a sophisticated effort to sway the elections against the Republicans in retaliation for Trump’s trade policies. He vowed to continue to expose Beijing’s “malign influence and interference.”

Pence said Beijing, with an eye not only to the congressional elections but also to Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, had “mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies” and was targeting its tariffs to hurt states where Trump has strong support.

“China wants a different American president,” Pence said.

He said that in June, Beijing laid out its strategy in a sensitive “Propaganda and Censorship Notice” which stated that China must “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the United States.

The allegations, however, have raised questions as to whether Trump and his aides are trying to deflect attention from an investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and also set up China for blame if Republicans do poorly in November’s vote.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement that Pence in his speech had made “unwarranted accusations … and slandered China by claiming that China meddles in U.S. internal affairs and elections.”

China is committed to working with the United States for “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” she said.


Washington has long cited China as a major culprit in the hacking of U.S. government and corporate databases. But U.S. officials and independent analysts say they have not detected the kind of systematic manipulation of social media and email hacking Russia was accused of in 2016.

Even so, Pence said: “As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told the Washington Post this week there was no indication of any foreign effort to disrupt election infrastructure, but added that “we know they (China) have the capability and the will.”

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

China expert Chris Johnson, a former CIA analyst now at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Pence’s speech appeared aimed in part at building a narrative that a vote for the Democrats would be vote for China.

“Another part of it is trying to distract attention from the real threat, which is Russia,” he said. “There’s nothing in that speech that rises to the level of 2016 Russian active measures.”

Trump has justified his trade policy by accusing China of stealing intellectual property and limiting access to its market. The two countries have imposed increasingly severe tariffs on each other.

Pence said Chinese security agencies had masterminded the “wholesale theft of American technology,” including military blueprints, and warned Washington would continue to take action.

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He urged Google (GOOGL.O) to end development of its “Dragonfly” app that would make it easier to track Internet searches and strengthen Chinese censorship.

Google declined comment, except to reiterate that its China search engine project was “exploratory” and not close to launch.

Bloomberg Businessweek cited 17 unidentified intelligence and company sources as saying that Chinese spies had placed computer chips in equipment used by about 30 firms, as well as multiple U.S. government agencies, which would give Beijing secret access to internal networks. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) denied the report.

Pence also said China had deployed anti-ship and anti-air missiles on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, despite promises not to militarize them.

He accused Beijing of “reckless harassment” in an incident on Sunday in which a Chinese naval vessel nearly collided with a U.S. destroyer near the Spratly islands.

“We will not be intimidated,” Pence said of the operation, the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

China said a Chinese warship had been sent to warn the U.S. vessel to leave an area of irrefutable Chinese sovereignty.

Pence accused China of using its economic power to bully smaller countries and said it had threatened the stability of the Taiwan Strait by pressuring three Latin American countries to sever ties with Taipei and recognize Beijing.

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Fighter jet from Taiwan keeps watch on a Chinese bomber

Pence also denounced Beijing’s crackdown on minority Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Last month, a U.N. rights panel said it had received credible reports that up to one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang, which China says faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists.

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Chinese soldiers and Uighur woman in Xinjiang (FILE photo)

U.S. officials have said they are considering targeted sanctions for human rights abuses.

Daniel Russel, Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia until last year, said there was a lot to dislike about China’s behavior. But he said the claim that China was working to defeat Trump at the ballot box “rings hollow” and the approach could be counterproductive.

“Even if you accept all of Pence’s complaints at face value, it’s hard to make the case that the administration’s Cold War-style vilification of China will be effective or beneficial to U.S. interests, since it’s clearly pushing Beijing to intransigence, not compromise.”

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Christopher Bing, Paresh Dave and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool